I’ve always thought that talking politics is almost a sure way to alienate half your audience. But maybe I’ll be lucky so here it goes.
During the year leading up to the 2008 election, one of my daughters was in a “History” class where often, a good portion of the class period was spent talking about politics. The teacher even gave the class a test to see where these 8th graders naturally lean politically. Surprisingly all but 3 of the students were naturally democrats. (Oh, my property tax dollars hard at work for me to educate my children!)
But that is not what bothered me. One night as we were having dinner, this daughter shared how while in one of their classroom discussions, a student raised her hand and asked, “What even is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?” Other students chimed in to reinforce their similar confusion. I’m sure the teacher, recognizing the power of this teaching moment, replied, (Even now I can’t believe the response he gave.) “Democrats believe that people are naturally good, while Republicans believe people are naturally bad. is how”
“What!?” I tried to reply more calmly than I was feeling. I was truly baffled. I try to follow politics and be knowledgeable, but nothing I had ever learned helped me to understand his response. But to save me from the moment of trying to understand what he might have meant by that, one of my other daughters asked, “Dad, what is the difference between a Republican and Democrat?”
I took a deep breath. Perhaps unlike my daughter’s teacher, I wanted to be fair. Although I generally vote Republican, I don’t want my kids to blindly be that way just because I am. I also believe that almost all Democrats are generally good people, although sometimes misinformed or misled; just like I believe almost all Republicans are generally good people, although sometimes misinformed or mislead. I believe that if there is a part of society that are “not very good people”, they are the ones who generally don’t care to vote at all. I believe almost all people in politics (including our President) mean well and honestly think their way of doing things is what is best for the people of our country.
But back to the question my daughter asked. Since the question of parties has mostly to do with government, I decided to answer with the focus on that. I also decided to make the response one that a person from each party might agree with. I said, “I think Democrats believe that the role of government is to help make people’s lives better. (Is that a response you think most Democrats could live with?) Then I said, “Republicans believe similarly except Republicans believe that people’s lives are better when government plays a very small role in their lives.” We went on to discuss how Republicans believe that less government control and regulations and fewer taxes help good people live better lives. I then told them how well meaning Democrats believe that through legislation, they could make people’s lives better, (government programs, motorcycle helmet laws, etc, they could keep people and society from more problems, and live happier lives.
Then we talked about what is a good philosophy between what is too much government and not enough government. (Maybe that will be a future blog post).
So what is my point with this whole story? I wanted to throw out some questions and know what you think. Leave a comment on Facebook or comment on the post
- How would you have responded to my daughter’s question (the difference between Republicans and Democrats)?
- What do you believe the proper purpose of government is?
- How do you feel about your kids being taught things in school that you might not agree with?
Years ago in a Seminary class, we were talking about how the commandments make us more free and how sin chains us down. And of course, Satan tries to turn it completely around claiming that the commandments are what tie us down, and the person sinning is free.
So as we were discussing these ideas and giving examples, a wonderful student named Abbie had a great example that has stuck with me all these years.
Abbie’s family had gotten two dogs. Gus was the very obedient dog. He stayed in the yard, and on walks he hardly needed a leash. If a cat walked by, and you told Gus to stay, he would. For this reason, Abbie’s family could take Gus just about anywhere with them, and never had to worry much about him.
In contrast, their other dog Pippin was always trying to get out of the yard, and on walks he was constantly trying to chase after something and would not be obedient.
So in the end, Gus had all sorts of freedoms and privileges, while Pippin, sadly, was usually tied up to a tree in the back yard with a leash because as Abbie put it, “he couldn’t resist anything and had a hard time obeying.” So in conclusion:
Which dog wanted freedom the most and which one got it?
What made it so he could have those freedoms?
How is life any different for us?
What do we sacrifice to have freedom?
More than ten years ago, I was in an in-service meeting and heard one of the most powerful quotes I’ve ever come across. It made me think a bit about who I was as a man, what defined success, and who I was trying to please in this world. Enough talk from me. Here it is:
The Measure of a Man
"The place to take the true measure of a man is not in the darkest place or in the amen corner, not the cornfield, but by his own fireside. There he lays aside his mask and you may learn whether he is an imp or an angel, cur or king, hero or humbug. I care not what the world says of him: whether it crowns him boss or pelts him with bad eggs. I care not a copper what his reputation or religion may be: if his babies dread his homecoming and his better half swallows her heart every time she has to ask him for a five-dollar bill, his is a fraud of the first water, even though he prays night and morning until he is black in the face.... But if his children rush to the front door to meet him and love's sunshine illuminates the face of his wife every time she hears his footfall, you can take it for granted that he is pure, for his home is a heaven... I can forgive much in that fellow mortal who would rather make men swear than women weep; who would rather have the gate of the whole world than the contempt of his wife; who would rather call anger to the eyes of a king than fear to the face of a child."
--H. Burke Peterson Oct. 1982 from Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook
A couple weeks ago, as my wife and I were talking about the coming new year, she mentioned the thought, “A home like Heaven in 2011.” I’ve been considering this idea quite a bit and one idea comes to my mind on how we can get there. Invest.
You hear people talking about investing themselves in their careers or at school. What exactly does it mean to invest yourself at school or career? At school, an invested person wouldn’t just be putting in enough to get a passing grade. They would strive for the “A” so they find future success and reach their education goals. They want their efforts to payoff. Likewise a person investing in their career isn’t doing just enough to not get fired. They are doing all the extra efforts to be promoted or receive that bonus.
How about at home? Are we investing ourselves at home? Are we giving more than the bare minimum? A person that is invested at home isn’t satisfied in doing just the bare minimum. They aren’t content with a family that is hardly holding together. The invested person is putting in the effort that is beyond what is expected. In investing themselves they look at how they can bless the life of their spouse and each family member individually. Admitting your wrong, being quick to forgive, a kind note, a compliment, or surprise. They look for ways to spend quality time together. And the payoffs at home are even greater, and are far more eternal.
Growing up, one of my best friends was Robert Thomas. As a teenager, I’m sorry to admit that I was generally looking for excuses to lose the family and spend time with friends. It became apparent that is was the opposite with Robert. He enjoyed being with his family more than us. And that was annoying to the rest of us friends.
Soon we were on missions and Robert went to Spain. While on his mission, Roberts father was diagnosed with cancer and before Robert returned, his father had passed away.
Do you think he regretted all the time he invested with his family? Do you think he looks back and regrets not spending more time with his friends? I don’t think so. He invested in what matters most. Eternal things.